Freeh’s Disappointment


Just more proof that Clinton did not do a thing unless it benefitted himself. Gas prices going down which would help his poll numbers appear to be the reason he disregarded Freeh’s recommendations….and that is just pathetic.

October 18, 2005 — FORMER FBI Director Louis Freeh writes movingly of his disappointment that Presi dent Bill Clinton did little or nothing to in tervene with the Saudi monarchy to let his agents question the accused perpetrators of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. But he is at a loss to understand the president’s conduct.

In an earlier terror attack, the Saudis had cut off the heads of the suspected terrorists before the FBI could question them. To avoid a repeat, Freeh went to the president and emphasized the importance of intervening with the Saudis to allow questioning.

The Saudis, of course, didn’t want the FBI interrogating their suspects for fear that the depth of the al Qaeda network that had grown in Saudi Arabia might be exposed to American ? and world ? view. But why did Clinton do nothing in the face of the appeals of his FBI chief?

Freeh implies that lust for donations to his Presidential Library might have entered into the equation, but the Khobar attack materialized long before Clinton was focused on his retirement. His gaze was, instead, squarely fixed on the next election ? and the soaring gas prices that represented a mortal peril to his chances.

Because his 1993 deficit-reduction package (sounds quaint now, doesn’t it?) had raised the gas tax a nickel, Clinton was worried that he’d get blamed for any price spike. A nominal increase in car-licensing fees had cost him the Arkansas governorship in 1980, and the lesson he drew ? don’t mess with people’s cars ? resonated deeply in his political worldview.

Originally, Clinton had resisted raising gas prices and tried instead to pass Al Gore’s well-nigh-incomprehensible plan to tax energy based on its BTU output. But nobody understood the tax and Congress, reverting to the tried and true, raised gas taxes instead. Ever since, Clinton had watched gas prices intently. “If gas goes down or stays the same, I’ll be OK,” he told me. “But if it goes up, I’m cooked.”

And in the spring of 1996, as the summer driving season approached, gas prices were spiking. Republicans, eager to tie the prices to the Clinton tax hike, introduced legislation to repeal the nickel increase and forced Clinton to defend it even as prices rose.

Clinton was obsessed with gas prices. We would talk about them all the time. Every poll probed the issue and measured the level of popular animosity over their increase and the extent to which Clinton himself was blamed. When we were alone in the White House, after the staff had been put to bed, Clinton would ask my advice on the issue and we would discuss the need to get the Saudis to increase petroleum production.

In direct and indirect ways, Clinton sent messages to the Saudi monarchy: If you want to help me, you’ll increase oil production and hold down prices. When oil production rose and the price began to level off as the summer faded and then return to normal, the president was very relieved.

Until Freeh spoke out, I didn’t know that Clinton had failed to press the Saudis to let in the FBI. But his reasons for not doing so are quite clear. For him to have picked up the phone and demanded that the Saudis let the FBI question their suspects would have risked annoying them by implying skepticism about their toughness on terrorism. And Clinton could not risk alienating Riyadh.

So even as Clinton was mouthing his determination to find those responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing, he was sending the Saudis a message, by his refusal to make the phone call, that Freeh’s demands were not his top priority, gas prices were.

This right on top of yesterday’s editorial from the post that ask’s the same questions:

October 17, 2005 — Former FBI Director Louis Freeh is leveling some devastating charges against his one-time boss, Bill Clinton: He claims the ex-president deliberately dropped the ball on pressing the Saudis to cooperate with the agency’s probe of the 1996 Khobar Tower bombing in Riyadh, which killed 19 American soldiers.

Freeh makes these charges in a new book, which he was busy promoting in a recent “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Wallace.

And though it’s tempting to claim, as Clinton’s circle already is, that this is just a ploy to sell books, the utter failure to mete out justice in the bombing suggests there’s some merit to the charges.

Khobar, recall, was the base of U.S. operations in Saudi Arabia. After the bombing, Freeh wanted his agents involved in the probe, which he says pointed to Iran as the mastermind of the terrorist attack. To that end, he asked the president to pressure the Saudis into cooperating.

Specifically, he wanted FBI access to four suspects the Saudis had arrested. But Riyadh’s ambassador in Washington had told Freeh that wouldn’t happen unless Clinton personally called then-Crown Prince Abdullah and asked for it.

Instead, says Freeh, “Bill Clinton raised the subject only to tell the crown prince that he understood the Saudis’ reluctance to cooperate. And then he hit Abdullah up for a contribution to the Clinton Presidential Library.”

In fact, Freeh says his agents only got access to the suspects when an ex-president ? the first George Bush ? “interceded with the Saudis, spoke to Abdullah, asked him for assistance and it happened just like that.”

Freeh says Clinton’s refusal stemmed from a reluctance to antagonize either Saudi Arabia or Iran; the latter had just elected a president widely seen as a moderate, and the White House hoped for a warming of relations.

Under pressure from Team Clinton, “60 Minutes” agreed to read a statement from convicted criminal Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, insisting that Freeh’s account is flat-out wrong. An aide also noted ominously that, since leaving office, Freeh’s political donations have all gone to Republicans.

Maybe so, but the charge seems to have some legs. And they’re not of recent vintage, either.

Clinton seems to have gotten his donation ? albeit several years later.

It’s also a fact that he’s remained close to the House of Saud: In 2002, he was paid $750,000 for a speaking tour there. The Saudis also flew the ex-president and an entourage of 40 guests to the kingdom for a 2003 visit, followed by a trip to the World Economic Forum.

And Clinton pointedly praised the Saudi government in his testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

Freeh has made similar allegations before, in a 2001 article by Elsa Walsh in The New Yorker. And he notably waited until his last day at the FBI, after George W. Bush had become president, to announce an indictment of 13 Saudis and a Lebanese ? still fugitives ? for their role in the Khobar Towers attack.

But his questions remain unanswered: Did any of the Clinton folks intentionally impede the FBI probe? Did anyone suggest to the Saudis, explicitly or otherwise, that America was not interested in information implicating high-ranking Iranians in the bombing?

Whatever the answers, there is no denying the terrible fallout from the failure to respond to the Khobar attack: The bombings of USS Cole and two U.S. embassies in east Africa, the attempted assassination of former President Bush and ? ultimately ? 9/11 all came about because, as Freeh puts it, “we lacked the political will, the spine to take military action against our enemies.”

The country, he says, “was not on a war footing,” even after the first World Trade Center bombing.

That sent a message to the terrorists that they could attack America with impunity ? which led directly to 9/11.

Bill Clinton owes the American people some answers to Freeh’s charges.

One thing I will want to see out of any 2008 Republican candidate is will they hold Hillary accountable for all the failures of Bill’s administration to seek out and destroy terrorists?

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I agree Reverse, I’m really surprised that this is still in the news….but for how much longer?

Of course, Hillary will NOT be held to account for Bill’s mistakes. Not by the MSM, at least. Frankly, I’m surprised that Freeh is talking about this and it’s getting traction.